On 29 September, the IAEA Nuclear Applications (NA) Laboratories in Seibersdorf saw a gathering of Ambassadors, Member State representatives and IAEA staff for the symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for the Renovation of the Nuclear Applications Laboratories (ReNuAL) project. This ceremony was held in conjunction with a celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture.
Welcoming the dignitaries, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano mentioned the significance of the ReNuAL project for the Agency and highlighted that "Our symbolic groundbreaking today marks the start of implementation of the ReNuAL project. I am confident that, with the active support of our Member States, we will, by 2017, have a cluster of modern, well-equipped laboratories here in Seibersdorf that we can all be proud of."
The NA Laboratories - eight in total - are a unique feature in the United Nations system. The laboratories that will be refurbished under this project provide an essential contribution to achieving the IAEA's mission of supporting the peaceful uses of nuclear technologies to help meet global development challenges. Their work includes supporting research, and providing training and analytical services for improving animal production and health, ensuring the effective and safe use of radiotherapy equipment, reinforcing food safety and developing hardier and higher-yielding food crops. They also contribute to protecting the terrestrial environment, eliminating insect pests, enhancing countries' capabilities in the use of advanced nuclear instrumentation and analytical techniques, and managing agricultural soil and water resources sustainably.
Director General Amano stated his gratitude for the financial support and in-kind contributions received from IAEA Member States for the project and appealed to all Member States to further contribute to ReNuAL.
Turning to the other important milestone of the day, the successful 50-year partnership of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division, Director General Amano in his congratulatory comments said that "since 1964, this unique partnership has helped many developing countries to feed their growing populations and boost the income of many farmers." Helping to conserve precious agricultural soil and water resources, eradicate the deadly cattle disease, rinderpest, and curb the damage caused by fruit flies to citrus crops in Europe and the Americas, were some of the unique success stories of the Joint Division that Director General Amano noted in his statement.
The enormous contribution of this Division to meet the changing needs of Member States through the peaceful uses of nuclear technology demonstrates the shared goal of the two organisations to contribute to sustainable development by strengthening food security and safety.
The Director General's support for the ReNuAL project and appreciation for the work of the FAO/IAEA Joint Division were echoed by the FAO Director General represented by its Deputy Director General, Ms Maria Helena Semedo, and Chair of the IAEA Board of Governors, Ms Marta �iaková, who also addressed the ceremony.
Since their establishment in 1962, there has not been any comprehensive renovation of the IAEA Nuclear Applications laboratories or significant upgrading of their equipment to ensure the continuing ability of the laboratories to respond to Member States' growing and evolving needs. As a result, laboratory buildings are currently in average to below average condition, space is under critical strain, and 70 percent of laboratory equipment is fully depreciated. The laboratories are no longer fit for purpose and are increasingly struggling to respond to Member States' demands.
The ReNuAL project was formally established on 1 January 2014 with project completion planned for December 2017. Specific elements of the project include: upgrading the infrastructure and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of laboratory operations and services; acquiring new equipment either to replace aging or obsolete hardware or to be able to respond to emerging issues and/or changes in technology.